One of the biggest challenges travel agents have faced in recent times is being caught in the middle as Marriott tried to reinforce its relationships with existing customers, who often buy hotel rooms through online travel websites. “Search engines can put themselves in the middle of every relationship we’ve got,” Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson said at ASTA Global. “Every [search] result is somebody who is paid to be shown in search. We [even] have to pay for our own name.” Given that, the challenge is how to maintain relationships with customers whose perception is that the best prices are to be found on third-party websites, even though that’s not true. “We thought the only way we could cut through the clutter is not that you get the same rate, but that you get a better rate,” he said. “So customers know it’s in their interest not to go through those [online booking] channels.” Get the full story at Travel Market Report